Man is acquitted of murder in 1998 homicide

But jury convicts Fischer of reckless endangerment

July 14, 1999|By Laura Cadiz | Laura Cadiz,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore County jury acquitted a Middle River construction worker of murder yesterday, but found him guilty of reckless endangerment in an August 1998 death that was ruled a homicide when the body was exhumed after two months.

Gary Lee Fischer Sr., 44, of the 13000 block of Twin River Beach Road, was charged with first-degree murder, second-degree assault and reckless endangerment in the Aug. 20 death of Allen Eugene Ellis of White Marsh.

Yesterday, Fischer stared straight ahead and showed no emotion as the jury acquitted him of all the charges but reckless endangerment. Members of his family gasped in relief as the murder acquittal was read.

"We are certainly relieved with the verdict," said Peter S. O'Neill, Fischer's attorney. "We were hoping for a total acquittal; however, we feel the jury was convinced his actions didn't lead to the death of Mr. Ellis."

Fischer declined to comment. His sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 13. The maximum penalty is five years in prison.

O'Neill argued that Fischer acted in self-defense when he hit Ellis, 33, outside a Pulaski Highway bar in August.

"It's a tragic incident," O'Neill said. "My client feels remorse, but feels he reasonably responded to an attack by Mr. Ellis."

Assistant State's Attorney Stephen R. Roscher argued that Fischer hit Ellis hard enough to kill him because he was jealous of Ellis' relationship with Sara Jane Festerman, Fischer's girlfriend.

"Naturally, we would have hoped for a verdict of something higher," Roscher said. "But that's not a criticism of the jury. They had a tough case."

Ellis' family, wearing buttons with a picture of Ellis and his daughter, said they are relieved that the trial is over.

"It turned out that he'll get some time out of it, but not as much as we hoped," said Ellis' father, Donald Ellis.

Ellis' family said the experience has been especially traumatic because Ellis' body was exhumed two months after it was buried in Holly Hills Memorial Gardens.

He first was determined to have died of natural causes. But Festerman contacted police Oct. 4 and implicated Fischer. Ellis' body was exhumed, and an autopsy revealed that the cause of death was blunt-force trauma.

"It was a very difficult case," said Ellis' sister, Denise Ellis. "Actually, I think the jury may have been confused with a lot of the issues."

Fischer's son, Gary Lee Fischer Jr., is scheduled to go on trial Aug. 23 on a charge of accessory-after-the-fact to murder. Police allege that the son, 20, drove his father to and from the scene of the incident. But Roscher said that because the father was acquitted of murder, charges against the son would be dropped.

Pub Date: 7/14/99

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